Men’s Hoops Preview: Furbush, Bobcats hungry for more success
|Co-captain Chris Wilson ’10 is already well-seasoned as the Bobcats’ starting point guard.|
LEWISTON, Maine — Only four years older than the seniors on his team, and only four years from wearing the garnet and white uniform of Bates College himself, Jon Furbush can be excused if he has to fight the urge to join his team on the floor at times this season. He also admits that in his first true taste of coaching his team in a game situation, which occurred last week as the team played a squad of Bates alumni, he wasn’t quite sure how far up the sideline he was allowed to stand.
That said, Furbush has already grown pretty comfortable in his role as the 21st head coach in Bates men’s basketball history.
“We’ve established the fact that even though I’m not far removed from the players in age, I’m the coach, not a peer,” said Furbush. “They can tell I’m very passionate about what I do, and we run a pretty tight ship. I think it’s beneficial too, that they know how successful the program has been, that I have been a part of that, and that we’re all really hungry to get to that next step. So we have many of the same goals, and I think it’s actually been a very smooth transition.”
Furbush was assistant coach to Joe Reilly in his first two years following graduation, and played a key role in recruiting last year’s freshman class. Last year he was an assistant at Springfield while attending graduate school, but Bobcat Pride stayed with him as strong as ever, and his knowledge of Bates and NESCAC basketball did too.
“I did play here for four years and coached here for three years, so I know the teams, I know the general personnel around the league, and I followed it last year. If I wasn’t so familiar with this conference, I probably would be a bit more uncomfortable.”
As preseason practices began for this season, Furbush could see right away that his players were going to help make his transition smooth.
|Co-captain Scott Place ’09 may be the team’s top threat from the perimeter. He has made 35 of 100 career 3-point attempts. (Photo by Joe Gromelski)|
“The basketball IQ of this team is unbelievable — I don’t have to explain things to them more than once or twice,” he said. “Just watching the guys interact with each other is encouraging, too. They get along great off the court, and between the lines they’re really competitive, yet they help each other out at the same time.”
There’s no denying that the Bobcats have a strong contingent returning from last year’s 17-8 edition, Reilly’s last season at Bates before he left to take the reins at NESCAC rival Wesleyan. The Bobcats graduated All-NESCAC guard Bryan Wholey and sharpshooter Pat Halloran, but left over is a great deal of size, skill and depth. Sophomore 6-5 forward Brian Ellis (Braintree, Mass.) returns after winning the 2008 NESCAC Rookie of the Year award, as does junior 6-0 point guard Chris Wilson (Brewer, Maine), the league’s top free throw shooter, who averaged over 11 points per game. Other returners who contributed greatly to last year’s successes include 6-3 senior guard Scott Place (Bridgewater, Mass.), 6-4 senior swingman Ben Thayer (Gorham, Maine), 6-6 junior forward Jimmy O’Keefe (Lexington, Mass.), 6-7 junior forward Sean Wirth (Barrington, R.I.) and 6-4 sophomore forward Alex Gallant (Bangor, Maine).
Another returner who didn’t get a lot of time last year, 6-7 sophomore forward Nick Schmiemann (Weymouth, Mass.), should make a big impact this year. Junior 6-4 swingman Neil Creahan (Hingham, Mass.), junior 6-5 forward B.J. Dunne (Medfield, Mass.), and junior 6-0 guard Marshall Hatch (Chicago, Ill.) can be added to that category as well, but Schmiemann, who missed most of last season with a broken foot, has particularly impressed Furbush thus far.
“The good thing is, no one really knows about him,” said Furbush. “But he can shoot the ball, he has probably the highest basketball IQ of anybody I ever worked with, he knows the game, he knows where to be on the floor, and his work ethic is great. He was told to do something in offseason, and he went beyond that. He wants to play, and more importantly he wants to win.”
|Co-captain Ben Thayer ’09 won the team’s defensive player of the year award last season. (Photo by Joe Gromelski)|
What really enthuses Furbush is that what he says about Schmiemann could apply to the team as a whole.
“Ben Thayer and Scott Place and Wilson, all the captains, they couldn’t work any harder. They want to win so bad. It sends the message to the young guys that ‘This is how it is, and if you don’t like it, see ya.’”
Among the team’s freshmen are promising 6-0 point guard Kyle Philbrook of nearby Auburn, Maine, and Edward Little High School. Burly 6-5 forward/center Ryan Weston (Bangor, Maine) is out for the season after a knee injury suffered in football preseason, but 6-6 forward John Squires (Swampscott, Mass.) also shows significant potential.
The brand of basketball Bates plays will emphasize the same virtues as did Reilly’s teams. Defense and rebounding will be stressed above all. On offense is where the most change may develop. Furbush wants to transition into a motion offense, and to facilitate that, he has charged the Bobcats with learning the role of each player on the floor on any given play.
“They’re taking well to that,” he said. “I show them all these plays, but they’re just options. Deviation is great because they’re reading defenses, and not on automatic pilot. So they’re playing the sport they appreciate so much and having fun with it.”
Bates will be put to the test beginning this weekend at the Hamilton College Tipoff Tournament. They’ll play Wells College at Hamilton on Friday at 6 p.m., followed by a Saturday game against either Mt. St. Vincent or the host Continentals. On Tuesday they’ll play host to Southern Maine at 7:30 p.m. in their home opener.